Women succeeding on their own terms

A new book focuses on the practical ways in which women can succeed in a system not designed for them.

woman presenting at board meeting


Women don’t need fixing, but they can learn ways to get ahead on their own terms in a system that is biased against them, according to a new book which is packed full of practical tips.

Leading coaching expert and podcaster Carla Miller’s book, Closing the Influence Gap : A practical guide for women leaders who want to be heard, aims to show aspiring female leaders that they are not alone, that there is nothing wrong with them and they don’t need fixing and to teach them how to tackle any self-doubt and imposter feelings so they can see themselves as effective leaders.

The first chapters focus on the imposter syndrome and self-doubt issues which so many women – and many others – say affect them while later ones deal with increasing visibility, influence and building self-awareness and confidence.  The last section is a troubleshooting guide to some of the most common problems women face, such as how to recover from a bullying boss or how to influence others when you are working remotely.

The book begins with some stark statistics about women and power – the fact that they are still significantly less likely than men to hold positions of power and to be heard, that they are less likely to be encouraged into a leadership role and that men are twice as likely to be promoted or selected for leadership training. Moreover, women face the challenge of trying to succeed in a working culture that was not designed for them, one of the root causes of imposter syndrome.

The book draws on Carla’s own experiences as a leader, but also those of her coaching clients, including hundreds of women who have gone through her Influence & Impact course.


Given she is a coach, it is to be expected that the focus is on practical advice. Much of this relates to having greater self-awareness. For instance, in the chapter on imposter syndrome, there is a lot of advice on tackling your inner critic through understanding it better, giving a name to it and visualising it. Miller writes that working remotely may help to feed women’s inner critic if they need feedback and reassurance for validation. Her solution is to learn the art of self validation through greater self awareness.

It’s not just about quietening your inner critic, however. It’s also about what Miller calls ‘tuning into your inner leader’, for instance, learning to trust your intuition and being aware of your body language. Mindset is also key: Understanding that your value as a person is not connected to the quality of your work and that you don’t have to do everything perfectly – you can strategically choose the tasks you want to put energy into. If you are an overthinker, Miller suggests turning this into a strength by conducting an audit or scenario planning instead of worrying and swapping long to-do lists for a three things list or a done list.

Everyone knows that some days – or weeks – can be worse than others, particularly if you are a working mum. Miller has a section on how to deal with things like burnout – being more aware of the warning signs,  focusing on what is in your control and learning to self-soothe and to say no more often. That deals with how you feel about yourself. What about how you come across to others?

Being seen as a leader

Miller states that if you want to be seen as a leader by others you first need to decide what kind of leader you want to be, what you offer that’s different and what your organisation needs and think about; power words you’d like people to use to describe you as that focuses the mind.

Miller offers tools to help establish your leadership credentials. They include visualising yourself donning a ‘cloak of authority’, setting expectations and boundaries, giving clear and actionable feedback through a focus on behaviour, consequences and action, engaging in difficult conversations rather than avoiding them and learning the psychology of delegation. She lists all the various reasons people give to avoid delegating, including the age-old one that it will take longer to do that than to do it yourself. It depends on the task and the person, says Miller.

Clear communication is vital for leaders, she adds. That means being aware of how you start and end contributions to meetings, visualising yourself as powerful before meetings, joining forces with other women in your organisation and asking questions instead of feeling the need to make statements. Body language and tone of voice are also important, she notes.

Other chapters cover internal politics – knowing who in your team really impacts delivery and targeting them and seeing things from the perspective of people you are trying to influence – and influencing senior stakeholders by, for instance, seeing part of your role as helping your manager to succeed, asking your manager for what you need, thinking about how you want someone to feel, think and act when communicating with them and seeing objections and difficult questions as providing valuable information rather than a judgment about your abilities.

Promotion and troubleshooting

There is also advice on promotion, such as improving your visibility by taking the credit for work that you have done, asking a senior leader to sponsor you, writing a LinkedIn article on your area of expertise or putting yourself forward for new opportunities like working groups or public relations opportunities. Other tips include to do more listening than talking, to focus on asking questions more than always providing answers and to adapt your leadership style to suit the person and situation.

The troubleshooting section at the end of the book deals with the kind of issues that many women confront in the workplace, for example, how to recover from a bullying boss [by recognising it’s them, not you; quietening their voice and creating a feedback folder to boost your confidence], how to influence people when working remotely [by communicating better what you are doing, using social media, looking more professional on zoom, check in on other colleagues and asking your manager for a quick call] and how to say no more.

For Miller the important thing is being more aware of yourself, what you bring as a leader and how that fits your organisation and understanding what impact your actions, words and how you say them have on others. For her being a good leader is a continuous process.

She concludes: “As leaders we never arrive at the finish line; we are constantly learning, evolving and adapting, particularly as we step into new roles or move into new organisations…remember – you are not alone, there is nothing wrong with you and by leading your way you can help to change the workplace, one interaction at a time.”

*Closing the Influence Gap : A practical guide for women leaders who want to be heard by Carla Miller was published in the autumn by Practical Inspiration Publishing, price £14.99.

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